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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  May 21, 2010 12:30am-1:00am EDT

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that's right. you listen to the guys in my episode eight of the brain series, jodalon said to one question, is there a theory of the brain, how it all somehow -- einstein was interested in the theory of everything. >> i think there is going to be a theory of the brain. >> charlie: riechlt >> the problem is the brane was created -- >> charlie: right. >> the problem is the brain was created by a haphazard process over a long period of time. if we understand what happens at the level of the worms or drosophila, that might give us insight because there is not that much evolutionary time but it was a weird hack job, it may take a while to reverse engineer it. >> charlie: which is sort of -- it's the nature of evolution. >> whereas in physics it turns out that a lot of things have in retrospect been very easy.
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when i was first a graduate student at princeton there was a noble prize winner named eugene vigner and he wrote this essay about the unness of mathematics. his question -- unreasonableness of mathematics. how did things work so well? we know now that there are parts of physics and parts of the world where equations have a difficulty working. many of the things called fraktales or deterministic chaos, equations that ought -- called fractals or deterministic chaos, we have been able to understand with simple ideas whereas evolution is convoluted. when systems biologists and molecular biologists try to reverse engineer all the pathways by which genes act to create organisms, it's really complicated stuff because there was no master designer. there was no logical design. it kind of happened in a
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haphazard way. so it's harder, but it's also finite. >> charlie: great to have you here. >> ok. >> charlie: mipleasure. nathan myhrvold for the hour. thank you for -- >> charlie: my pleasure. nathan myhrvold for the hour. the brain series is about the most exciting scientific journey of our time. understanding the brain. >> charlie: tell me about negative emotions. >> emotions can be categorized along the axis of pleasant vs. unpleasant which is sometimes called the valance of the emotion and how arousing are they so you can have a negative emotion which is highly arousing like rage and a negative emotion which is a low level of arousal like sadness and today we're going to focus mainly on those negative emotions that have a high level of arousal associated with them like fear and aggression or anger.
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now, these are very old and powerful emotions. they're essential for the survival of animal species. and arguably, they have a stronger influence on us perhaps in our day to day lives than the positive emotions. it's often said that bad news sells more newspapers than good news. perhaps that is related to that in some way. ♪ ♪ captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with emmy-winning comedian garry shandling. the star of "the garry shandling show" and "the larry sanders show." he can be seen in one of the biggest films this year, "iron man 2". we talk about his last appearance on this program. it in fact led to the role in
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"iron man 2." we'll explain. we're glad you have joined us. >> all i know is his name is james. he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference. >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> [note] nationwide is on your side [note][note] >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]
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tavis: when you think of big summer blockbuster movies, you of course immediately think of garry shandling. ok, well, maybe not. >> why don't you just start over. [laughter] tavis: but you can currently catch the comedian and actor in one of the biggest films so far this year. "iron man 2." here now a scene from "iron man 2." >> can we pick up now where we left off? mr. stark, please. >> yes, dear? >> can i have your attention? >> absolutely. >> our priority here is for you to turn over the iron man weapon to the american people. >> well, you can forget it. america is safe. you want my property, you can't have it. i did you a big favor. tavis: i can't imagine, you, garry shandling, playing a smarmy united states senator. >> well, then that's perfect because really when you see these smarmy united states senators you can't imagine what
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they are like in real life, can you? so working backwards, they are like this. [laughter] no, i think that you just have to really know that you are in front of your constituency and really, i played that guy as someone really wanting the attention, making sure that he is going to get re-elected. looked like he is standing up for the u.s. and at the same time doesn't know what he is talking about. tavis: there is nobody like that in u.s. senate for real, though, is there? >> not that i know of. it is a completely contrived character. tavis: i made my attempt at humor a moment ago. how did you end up in this blockbuster this summer >> well, i mean, i just don't know what to drink to override your sarcasm. tavis: you got two cups here. coffee in this one. water in this one. >> i need a gatorade sarcastic
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drink. well, it is good to see you and i love you. they may not know we know each other so well and that you enjoy poking fun at me assuming i'm not really going to strike back. [laughter] is that true? you feel safe? tavis: yeah, i feel safe. >> because you seem like a little sissy. [laughter] tavis, how are you, buddy? i was on your show a year ago -- about two years ago. i think i was plugging the "it's garry shandling" d.v.d.'s. we ended up getting from that to politics. it must have been through piracy. i don't know how we got there. and so jon favreau, the director of "iron man 2" and "iron man 1" and the director of "elf" which has nothing to do with this. [laughter] tavis: yes? >> and of all things, he saw me on here talking to you on one of
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the days when you were coherent allowing me to be whoever i am and we had really quite a good time, you and i, that particular day and he went to one of the other producers of "iron man" and said do you think shandling can play the senator? i saw him on tavis smiley. i just assume he thinks you were probably busy. or he would have had something for you. i don't know how you can -- tavis: i'm about to ask that question. he saw the two of us engaged in dialogue. you got a call from favreau. i did not. what happened here? >> i didn't bring a shrink along but i think you should see somebody. i can see that it is going to be writhing on you. i think i would guess that in general, although i think you could play a senator. you can play a senator. and he -- he called me up because i did the d.v.d. and then i went to hawaii because you know i go to hawaii a lot when i get away.
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it always throws people in the business off when i disappear. because they say well, where were you? i say i was off tv. [laughter] no one can imagine who is on tv. that world -- real life. tavis: why hawaii, though? >> i go to hawaii to really get away. you have to fly over the ocean and i don't like that part. i don't like to -- i don't like flying. i don't like flying over the ocean. i really don't like going to hawaii. you have stumped me. [laughter] and i got very far away and i really do actually meditate and hike and swim and take care of myself and i was hanging out and jon called me there and he said what are you doing and i said i'm hanging out in hawaii and he said, well, i have this small part and then he said, tavis, this really interesting thing which he really said.
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he got human very fast. he wasn't talking like job -- job offer or anything like that. he was talking artistically. he said to me i don't think this is the time to withdraw and what he meant was spiritually withdraw, emotionally withdraw, physically withdraw because hawaii is symbolic for a certain spiritual withdraw where i heal and meditate and take care of myself and have my own time and he is a fan and he said well, i have this very small part and i would like to give you the support to do what you do and we start talking like that and before i knew it i was on the set. [laughter] tavis: i read, though, that what started out as a little two-pace thing when you got -- two-page thing when you got on the set it started growing. >> we had this little shorthand. i said to him when i get back
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from hawaii, we'll just read through the scene. it was about three pages at the time. by the time we got halfway through that, robert stopped, nodded to jon and then we started to improvise and robert called -- jon called in a computer fellow who started taking down the script and it grew to 15 pages. [laughter] and before i knew it, much like the start of this show, i was suddenly sitting there and it was action and i realized, my god, the last thing i had done was the voice of a turtle. [laughter] which i guess maybe translated a bit to the senator. [laughter] and then i was in the trailer and he put me in the trailer so much that i started getting offers for trailers for movies that i'm not even in. i think i'm best in the trailer by the way. did you see the trailer?
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tavis: i saw the trailer. >> i'm in eight seconds of the trailer and i think mickey rourke is in like two seconds. i timed it all. i have a whole graph. it is disproportionate to the amount of time i'm in the movie. you go my god, he's the star of the trailer. tavis: take me back inside that room. you start off with three pages of dialogue. without getting too detailed, how does that grow to 15 pages? how did the part grow from what it was to what it is? >> first of all it is a style and a form and an atistic way of creating that i'm familiar with that is my style of operating. so we all were of the same mind, which is once you're in the moment and the chemistry happens, where does it go? and robert started to improvise and then i went with him and jon
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called it getting in the cage with robert. it makes it sound kind of ominous where it is really eye is gantically fun because you're with a man who is so open and often childlike. he is just working off of pure impulse and i enjoy that and so it grows. jon sits about six feet away to stay out of the immediate danger. tavis: he's on the outside of the cage. >> on the outside of the cage. i said you don't need wear the scuba gear. we're in an office, man. but he gets confused easily and i shouldn't be saying that but he often comes in in scuba gear. and he would say what would happen if robert took over the screen at the senate hearing and then we just start improvising
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and then of course after all of that and after that is all shot then he goes back and cuts it back down to somewhere in between what it was originally and how much improvization was done. tavis: ok. but still it ended up being more than it originally was. >> yeah. tavis: one of the reasons i suspect that you were so good at that process, being able to improvise, you started off as a writer. the last time you were on the show, we had so much fun talking about other things and getting you a job on "iron man 2." >> sean penn was on after me and he got "milk." you were on c-span 2. tavis: yeah, c-span 2. >> that's still something. >> you get "iron man 2" and he gets "milk."
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i get c-span 2. >> you make the catholic church look like a little sissy. you run that room. you got fair canned jesse jackson. those two -- farrakhan and jesse jackson. you had your facial hair fully grown out. you looked like you were ready, you meant business. i enjoyed that show by the way. tavis: are you done now? >> no. i thought -- yeah, i am. i'm giving you a compliment. tavis: i appreciate that. still, "iron man 2," "milk" and c-span 2. i digress. >> they are coming out with the adult version of "iron man 2." you know what it is called? tavis: what? >> "iron man 2." they like to play with the titles usually but they don't need to on this one. tavis: last time you were here i wanted to talk about two things i didn't get a chance to talk
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about. i'm a huge "sanford and son fan." i watch the show on tv land or tv 1. reruns all the time. i love watching credits. i crack up every time i watch the show and i see garry shandling's name in the credit. that is so hilarious to me. >> do you ever freeze it right there? tavis: i just freeze it and revel in moment. >> do you have a drink and just stare at it? tavis: yeah. >> well, then you're like my mother. tavis: wrarp you doing writing for "sanford and son"? >> the first job i got on any show was on "sanford and son." i wrote a script about fred and his chinese neighbor opening a chinese restaurant in fred's house, which is illegal because it wasn't zoned for that. it is a junk yard. tavis: uh-huh. >> and you're staring me down
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for some reason. i don't know why. but i'll tell you. i pitched other stories. i said hey, fred is -- fred becomes a member of the black panthers. they said no. tried everything. i wanted to go more progress i. lamont is a member of the f.d.f. i wrote the one where they go camping. tavis: that was on the other night. i just saw it the other night. >> this is embarrassing. tavis: i love "sanford and son". >> it is a great show. it is a really funny show. they spotted me honestly because of the jokes i could write. it took me a long time to understand story but jokes i could write. it has hard jokes. for some reason i could write aunt esther. there you go. give me the credit for having this range. aunt esther.
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"iron man 2" senator. [laughter] tavis: that's some nice range. not just "sanford and son." you you for "welcome back kotter." >> did. tavis: how did you make the switch and say i'm moving from writing to doing stand up? what happened? >> i was bored out of my mind, basically. i couldn't understand. i was 26. i went into the story editor at "sanford and son" and said why do you write 20 of these? because it was a formula. . if you think of my series, they sort of aren't formula. they sort of are -- the stuff i then did was very offbeat and difficult to write each week because it would be very different each week where these shows were pretty locked down to a formula because once you were able to write one, because i see everything as a challenge, once i sort of could do it i didn't
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understand understand why you keep doing it unless you're inspired so it was time for me to move on because i had gotten on stage at the comedy store and stunk. i mean, i was never a natural. i was dead in the water on amateur night and, in fact, i was going to change my name to that but it was too long, don't you think? tavis: dead in the water on amateur night. >> that was my american-indian name when i used to do stand up before the europeans moved in. what the hell happened there with immigration? the native americans should be the ones who decide. everyone outside of them is an immigrant. jeez i'm going to get angry. tavis: are you boycotting arizona? >> i'm boycotting arizona because my mother lives there. tavis: wow. [laughter] >> finally the jews and latinos
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have bonded. tavis: what -- >> it seems like immigration for all of these years has been the real don't ask don't tell. they should change that to don't ask, don't tell and change don't ask, don't tell something more mature like don't know, don't want to. that would take care of it. just i don't know and i don't want to. tavis: since you're on issues. i got more. can i throw some more at you? >> please. solve them. tavis: we solved immigration here in 10 seconds. >> well, you know, obama was on tv today saying he needs republican support to get the immigration laws. i don't know how you feel about this but it is very tough. i voted for him and i support him and i just don't want to hear him say he needs republican support. i voted for him because i
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thought he knew how to get republican support. that's not my job. is that my job? isn't that accountability? is it my responsibility to make it work? tavis: that's why he is president element >> i don't want to be president. that's why i'm the president? that's why i'm a senator. tavis: what do you think about the wall street situation? the bailout? >> you and i talked a year and a half ago about money before this. so it is not news to us, is it? they are money addicted. i particularly got burned because i had my money with goldman sachs and goldman. now that is not anti-sem ethic. i just shouldn't be putting my money with my relatives i never trust my relatives. tavis: what is going to with this financial reform they are talking about? is it going to work?
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is it tough enough? >> you know how i feel about this, which is you know, the only change that is going to happen is -- help me with this. is the only change that matters is going to come from within. we can only blame ourselves for creating this culture that is a fiasco. the culture is built on get what you can until you get caught. that's what the culture is. so it doesn't go back to bush or clinton. it goes way back. we all have to take -- what i'm trying to say is it is my fault. [laughter] it is your fault. the crew's fault. it is my fault. tavis: why are you blaming me? i had nothing to do with this? >> well, you probably started protesting pretty early. i did too. you know, all of us who -- people who are looking to blame somebody else had best look at themselves first is what i'm saying.
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it is an unusual perspective because it requires a small cingular approach, one by one, but i think that is what has to be done. we're at the end of this ride, aren't we? we're at the end of this crazy, spinning wild ride called earth. doesn't it seem like it is coming to an end? tavis: say it ain't so, garry. say it ain't so. >> it seems to me we're getting to that place where the guy says get off and stay to the side there. it is tricky. it is time to take a real serious look before 2012 comes because that's when people are wondering. i personally. i am optimistic. i think it is going to be 2013 before the whole thing -- we have to look at all the possibilities. i'm actually not joking when i say it is a singular. you're so good putting this into
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the correct words. it is singular completeability but if we continue to points and blame. my car is leaking oil like there is no tomorrow. because it is a b.p. car. i got a b.p. car. it has killed the plants and the animals. there was no thought what's going to happen if it doesn't go right we created a culture that needs oil so badly we'll pump it anywhere at any cost. tavis: what is your definition of an adicts? >> there are definition s of addicts. >> one of the things that president obama has been saying of late. he is arguing what is wrong with the culture is that we're too uncivil. there is no civility in our discourse anymore. have we become too uncivil? >> it seems to me that you bring -- if we go back to your c-span special which is called "the
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agenda for -- black america's agenda is america's agenda"? tavis: you got it. >> i want to congratulate you. you had thoughts flying in that room under control. i don't know how you did it. that's a gift. you had everybody talking and i think the answer is going to come in a quiet moment of stillness when an inspired thought strikes. because we have intellect liesed it too much and what that causes people to do is to take sides and now we have this partisanship that is so out of whack that even the israelis and arabs look at the republicans and democrats and go oh, my god! they are crazy! they are never going to get it together. [laughter] tavis: what about the -- i read the other day, a piece the other day and someone was arguing what is wrong with america getting back to the culture. what's wrong with america is we
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don't have a moral leader. we don't have a gandhi or a king. there is no moral leader. >> i did that last time i was on. i said we need a moral leader. i mean, that's a tough job because it just -- i think those things just happen. but you know, as long as we know what we're -- we have an idea what we're looking for, i'm not even sure if people know what they are looking for so let's know what we're looking for before we start hiring and voting. i don't think we knee what we're looking for. now -- know what we're looking for. we have all of these choices. that's not what i'm talking about. i'm talking about each individual. do you know who you are and what you want? because it just seems completely out of whack. and towards the, you know, sometimes i say i don't know where to end. because it seems like we're at
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an ending of some kind when we're trying to resolve something and i saw jack kevorkian on larry king two weeks ago. i thought he was there to actually end it for larry. because when i tuned up i could only see them from the neck up. they both looked like they passed away to be frank. [laughter] i thought is this how it is going to end for larry? nobody has considered conceivably that suicide could be the way the 2012 -- individual, you know, now that jack is out of jail and available. now we'll hear commercials like house foreclosed? call jack. volcano? call jack. it is overwhelming, i think. i don't know how it is going to end. we have to bottom out and make a transition somehow or another. tavis: well, we have


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